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June 3, 2016

Foreign Policy Suddenly Makes a Difference

Obama and Clinton are hardly the ones to make a good case.

Graduates of the Air Force Academy, including the son of our publisher, Mark Alexander, endured their commander in chief’s final service academy commencement address Thursday. Barack Obama made the case that these graduates would be joining the world’s strongest military, which is true, albeit less true than eight years ago. But he also warned of the “false comfort” that an isolationist foreign policy would create.

Yet while Obama broke his 35-minute address down into several lessons he claimed to have learned during his time in the Oval Office, the only real mistake he admitted to was in Libya: “We were right to launch an air campaign to prevent [Moammar] Gadhafi from massacring innocent civilians,” said Obama, “but we didn’t do enough to plan for the day after, when deep-rooted tribalism plunged Libya into disorder.”

That’s putting it mildly.

If Obama can only think of one mistake, we can note others. There are any number of military experts and other observers, including those in our humble shop, who believe that creating a vacuum by premature withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan — the former as a cynical re-election ploy to make the case that “al-Qaida is on the run” — also led those nations into “disorder” caused by a resurgent Islamic terror state Obama once dismissed as the “JV team.”

Yet Obama claims to have drawn the opposite lesson. “We’ve learned,” Obama pontificated Thursday, “that often the best way to defeat terrorists is not by sending large numbers of American ground forces to occupy and patrol foreign cities and towns. It’s better to train and build up local partners — they’re the ones who have to stabilize their own countries over the long term.” That wasn’t the message he sent in 2011, when he embraced the isolationism of leaving the “local partners” of Iraq to the wolves of radical Islam, fearing that fighting them in place might cost him another term.

With total lack of self-awareness, Obama boasted, “The United States is better positioned to lead in the 21st century than any other nation.”

On the contrary, Obama’s foreign policy legacy will be one of “leading from behind” in such a manner that even his allies on the Left took notice. “Obama … has constantly reassured Americans that doing nothing is the smart and moral policy,” wailed Fred Hiatt of The Washington Post last September. And along for the ride in those formative years of leading from behind was one Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Which brings us to her highly touted foreign policy speech Thursday. As she pivots toward a general election campaign against Donald Trump, Clinton took direct aim at her opponent’s fitness for the job. She was short on specifics regarding her own ideas but long on comparisons to what she felt would be Trump’s “dangerously incoherent” ideas.

Unlike Obama, she didn’t own up to even a single mistake she made during her tenure as secretary of state. Instead, Hillary revealed a six-point plan that at times had little to do with foreign policy. For example, she opened with a call for “investing in our infrastructure, education and innovation” before talking about harnessing the power of our allies and the advantages of diplomacy — advantages that gave us the Iranian nuclear deal and the “reset” with Russia. Surely some in the audience bit their lip to keep from laughing out loud when Hillary promised to be “firm but wise with our rivals.”

And if that wasn’t enough of a howler, Clinton later noted, “I remember being in the Situation Room with President Obama, debating the potential bin Laden operation. The president’s advisors were divided. The intelligence was compelling but far from definitive. The risks of failure were daunting. The stakes were significant for our battle against al-Qaida and our relationship with Pakistan. Most of all, the lives of those brave SEALs and helicopter pilots hung in the balance. It was a decision only the president could make. And when he did, it was as crisp and courageous a display of leadership as I’ve ever seen.”

Just thinking back to the staged situation room photo of Obama, clad with a jacket over his golf shirt and looking slack-jawed at the monitors, knowing that he’d just pulled himself away from “15 games of spades” according to a loose-lipped aide — it doesn’t exactly evoke “crisp and courageous.”

One of Clinton’s hits against Trump would be far better directed against herself and Obama. “Trump says over and over again, ‘The world is laughing at us.’ He’s been saying this for decades; he didn’t just start this year,” she said. “You’ve got to wonder why somebody who fundamentally has so little confidence in America, and has felt that way for at least 30 years, wants to be our president.” One might ask why Obama and Clinton, who openly despise America, want that position.

No doubt Hillary scored some successful hits on her Republican rival, but we can scarcely think of a worse messenger. And looming in the background is Clinton’s email malfeasance, through which she actually put U.S. national security at risk. All Trump has done so far is tweet.

Indeed, Trump responded to her speech by tweeting, “Bad performance by Crooked Hillary Clinton! Reading poorly from the telepromter! [sic] She doesn’t even look presidential!”

Bad performance: It’s the hallmark of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy.

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